"Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureucrat's tool is fear." ~ Ayn Rand
Why I'm Leaving America
Column by new Root Striker Michael Fielding.
For as long as I’ve lived you’ve been my only home. I’ve had a wonderful life here. Your inhabitants are almost universally kind, and I’ve become lifelong friends with many of your citizens. All of my family lives here, everyone I have ever known or loved, and I will miss them all a lot. But after 22 years, I feel impelled to leave.
According to your founders, “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one [person] to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to be disrespectful.
At first glance, you look like the greatest of all social systems. You seem like a stable and sturdy structure. People look at you and see strength. They see freedom and opportunity, democracy and unity. But a peek behind the curtain reveals a scared old man, desperately trying to maintain an illusion. Your size and complexity hide a simple truth: that you don’t physically exist. You are nothing more than a system of human interaction; not a thing in and of itself, but the result of a widespread pattern of behavior. You emerge from our beliefs, and the actions they compel us to take.
We learn our roles and play them well. The guards act like guards, the judges act like judges, the cops act like cops, and we all pay our taxes. You exist because individuals behave as if you did. Of course this seems patently obvious, but it has some frequently overlooked implications. There is an inherent problem with this sort of system, a cancer written in your genetic code, an inoperable tumor that spells your demise.
The mistake is so subtle that generations have failed to identify it. Your creators devised a way to hide it for centuries. They separated your powers, pitted ambition against ambition to mask your fatal flaw. As long as people were content, as long as your tyranny was well hidden, the problem went unnoticed. But it was there all along, metastasizing beneath the stars and stripes.
The problem is choice. I alone control my actions. Your system depends on us adhering to a certain pattern of behavior, but we each have the power to reject it. You will only survive as long as individuals believe you exist and act accordingly, but you cannot compel the choice. You can never take away my ability to choose life without you, to ignore your behavioral suggestions, to act on my own.
Oh but of course, you tried your best to conceal this fact, to convince me I needed you, to give me faith in your existence, to make me fall in love with you, to count you as my own. You started young, indirectly at first and then directly through my “education.”
For thirteen years I was forced into your indoctrination facilities, and social pressure pushed me into another three and a half. Without a doubt I learned many useful things. I had many wonderful teachers who only wanted what was best for me. I am grateful for their wisdom.
Far more sinister were the unspoken lessons. Structure matters more than content; your hidden messages are far more powerful than what is said aloud in lecture. For more than a decade you required my direct submission to your representative at the front of the class, using all the silly threats that work on a child. You taught me that knowledge is obtained from authority, that all problems have answers in the back of the book. You judged me constantly, trying to teach me to look to others for approval, trying to make me conform. You lead me in the pledge of allegiance over 2,000 times. But worst of all, you tried to parent me. You tried to make me realize a familial bond with you, to make me believe you had my own interests at heart. You tried your best to make me choose you, but it didn’t work.
The more you try to coerce my affection, the more obvious the ploy becomes. All the ridiculous forms of manipulation that go unseen by the masses are the red flags of malicious intent. My obedience isn’t for my protection, but for yours. You don’t want me to see the choice because that leads directly to an investigation of merit. No longer are you a parent that must be respected, but a business transaction that must be evaluated. Well America, your benefits don’t outweigh your costs. You do more harm than good.
I recognize your advantages. I understand you have rivals who treat their citizenry far worse. Raised in another land, it’s possible I would have never received enough information to understand my situation. And for that, I thank you. But it’s not enough. Your existence relies on a mortal sin, and no amount of bribery will sway me to forgive you for it. No number of schools, hospitals, roads or defense networks could ever justify your systematic use of aggressive coercion.
Coercion is “the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats, intimidation, fraud, or some other form of pressure or force.” Making someone do something they wouldn’t out of their own free will. Aggressive coercion means the initiation of such action. Threatening someone who hasn’t threatened you, defrauding the trusting, harming an innocent; the initiation of force.
Coercion is your single purpose, your only weapon and your only form of control. A government IS a monopoly of the “legitimate” use of aggressive coercion; a monopoly over the initiation of force IS a government. Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
It’s not your fault. You were created with one lever, so every time the people wanted change you pulled it. When people got scared about retirement, you gave them Social Security. The price: enslaving the next generation. You put the bill on the backs of their children before they were old enough to vote, and the only choice you provided was pay up, leave or live in a metal cage. When people got scared about flying or drugs or pornography, you pulled the lever and made more threats. All of your rules are coercive. Every single piece of legislation is ultimately backed up by a threat of physical violence. Every law is a gun under the table, and I don’t negotiate with terrorists.
I will not support the use of aggressive coercion as a solution to social problems, even implicitly by voting or paying taxes. It causes far more problems than it solves. This isn’t a belief that was handed down to me as many of your citizens obtained their ethics. My belief that that coercion is undesirable and ineffective isn’t based on faith, and I’m open to the possibility that I’m wrong. But this is the conclusion of my sincerest attempt at an objective search for truth. It is a conviction forged with evidence and reason. I don’t believe aggressive coercion is wrong because anyone says so; I won’t support its use because of the way it affects humans as individuals and societies.
This probably seems like a radical and unsubstantiated belief to you. It’s certainly an uncommon principle within your borders. It might be unusual, but popularity has no bearing on truth. On the scale of individual interactions, it’s clear that receiving threats is not desirable. Nobody wants to be coerced, by definition. But what if threats can be used for the common good? What if the negative effects of coercion to a society are outweighed by its benefits? The more I learn about the world, the more I realize that this is not the case. Coercion inhibits the evolutionary search of the free market, it prevents us from trying out new solutions to social problems and from recognizing failures. I’m convinced it’s the cause of almost every problem you purportedly use coercion to solve.
Of course, your greatest supposed benefit is the defense you provide. But what noble defender extorts payment from its clients? How could you possibly be defending us when YOU are our greatest threat? Like the Mafia’s protection racket, our greatest danger presents itself when we refuse to pay. There is only one entity that has ever threatened me with death or imprisonment, and that is YOU. No foreign government, terrorist organization or even a criminal on the street has ever threatened my life or freedom, only you America.
Granted, you provide defense from some of your smaller competitors. You imprison lesser thieves and murderers, a charade to prove your worth. Clearly these are problems that any society must deal with, but ceding the power of legitimate defense to a single entity only exacerbates them. Without feedback such as prices and profit, no one has any idea what methods are effective or desirable. Granting a monopoly of defense is like giving all the guns to an army of deaf men and acting surprised when they don’t respond to our shouts. People deserve a distributed, voluntarily-funded defense network that utilizes free exchange to find the cheapest, most desirable and most effective methods of preventing the initiation of force. Imprisoning tax evaders and drug users while bombing innocent civilians in the Middle East is NOT defense, and I will not allow you to fund your crimes with any portion of the fruits of my labor.
Almost every social problem can be traced back to your gun in the room, pointed at us under layers of abstraction and legalese. The most subtle, and most deadly, was the corruption of the price system. You enslaved us with the strongest chains known to man: a debt-based monetary system. You deprived us of accurate value measurements. You prevented us from equilibrating supply and demand. You tilted the scales in the market, and threw off all our transactions. You prevented us from acting rationally by quietly replacing our money with a cheap replica, and forcing us to use it.
But your tyrannical nature isn’t the only reason I’m leaving, especially not why I’m leaving right now. I’m not only fleeing your coercion, but the inevitable economic collapse your inhabitants are only beginning to appreciate.
I better explain that phrase. “Economic collapse” means a reduction in economic complexity: a decrease in specialization, a slow down in trade, brought about by a loss of confidence. It’s not a fantastical, delusional prediction. Your economy is based on a con game that cannot be sustained.
Your monetary and fiscal problems are rivaled only by the artificial complexity of your financial system. But at its heart, the problem is simple: Everything is based on the assumption of infinite exponential growth. For a long time, that assumption was never tested. We could stick straws in the ground and produce energy for pennies on the dollar. The underlying economy actually grew exponentially. This allowed the Ponzi scheme of your fiat currency to survive a little longer than usual. For a while, the growth of the money supply reflected the productive capacity of your people, enabling an astounding degree of complex specialization and trade. But the era of cheap energy has come to an end. Like any population that finds an untapped resource, we went for the easiest parts first. Now all the low hanging fruit has been eaten, and we can no longer increase annual global oil production. We have generations of social arrangements built on assumptions that are no longer valid. Your money supply is expanding faster than ever, but it no longer mirrors the productivity of your citizens. It is being artificially expanded to paper over the cracks in the dam. Your puppeteers have made more promises than could ever be fulfilled, and they are printing money to pay off their debts. This never ends well. Regardless of whether you print your way into hyperinflation and currency collapse, or default on your debt, it’s clear your path is unsustainable. Collapse is mathematically guaranteed, and it’s not something to play chicken with. I’d rather be ready a decade early than a day late.
Some might think I should work to save you instead of leaving you to crumble. The ship is sinking, and we either need to make repairs or head for the lifeboats. But I took a look at your blueprints, and you were never structurally sound to begin with. You were constructed with fundamental flaws. Moreover, I believe we’re past the point of no return with this monetary system, and the dollar isn’t worth saving. The mainstream media is the band playing on the Titanic.
I don’t want to be here to witness your darkest hour. We will all have to face this paradigm shift, but I want to confront it on my own terms. I want to meet it with consciousness, integrity, and a sense of purpose. I don’t want to wake up one day and have a rough transition thrust upon me. I want to make that transition now, and sleep through your collapse.
[I wrote my first draft of this in December 2010, and I've been pretty concerned I wouldn't be able to get ready in time. While "extend and pretend" was the worst policy for the American people, it did provide me with time to prepare myself, and for that I again thank you.]
America, I never signed your social contract. I never agreed to taxation, even with “representation.” I refuse to recognize the legitimacy of an organization founded upon aggressive coercion. I don’t recognize your laws and I don’t recognize your property claims. I’m not leaving because I can’t live here with my principles, I’m leaving because you physically overpower me. I stand a much better chance fighting for my freedom outside your territory, and I don’t believe it’s cowardly to admit that. I see no value in your Federal Reserve Notes, and I sure as hell don’t owe you any. Your debts are not my own. Your battles are not mine to fight. I will not allow you to enslave me any longer.
I don’t know what the future holds. I may be underestimating the difficulty of life without you, or your vengeance towards dissidents and deserters. I could very well come to regret leaving your borders, but right now I highly doubt it. All I can do is make the best decision with the information I have, and the only logical conclusion is that life will be better without you. Like your people are so fond of saying: freedom isn’t free; but I’m more than willing to pay the costs, no matter how high they might prove to be.
PS. I don’t believe information can be legitimately owned. I don’t own these paragraphs anymore than I own the words they’re composed with, or the letters forming the words. Nothing here is copyrighted. Feel free to copy and distribute this however you wish.
Many thanks to my good friend Benjamin Gilliam for helping me review and edit.